Monday, November 27, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-7

After her departure, Merle Rideout dreams about Erlys. Erlys Mills Snidell, as it turns out. In the news lately is an experiment taking place at the Case Institute in Cleveland, "to see what effect, if any, the motion of the Earth had on the speed of light through the luminiferous Æther" (58). He travels to Cleveland at Vanderjuice's request to check it out, and when he gets there he finds the city fixated on the pursuit of a bandit named Blinky Morgan who allegedly killed a police officer. There are also lots of Æther enthusiasts around, some of whom periodically get locked up at the Northern Ohio Insane Asylum. These enthusiasts include Ed Addle, Roswell Bounce, and O.D. Chandrasekhar. Merle gets it into his head that, in the event that Blinky Morgan is caught, the Michelson-Morley experiment will show that there is in fact no Æther. He theorizes that Professor Edward Morley and Charles "Blinky" Morgan are in fact the same person. There's some sort of science here involving light beams, but I don't really understand it very well. At any rate, Blinky is finally apprehended, and indeed the experiment shows that there is no Æther. "Because Blinky emerged from invisibility, and the moment he reentered the world that contained Michelson and Morley, the experiment was fated to have a negative outcome, the Æther was doomed..." (62) There is some discussion amongst the Æther-enthusiasts as to whether the Æther be God, or at least god-like.

In October, Merle is at the asylum breaking out Roswell Bounce, when a fire breaks out, allowing for easy escape. In gratitude, Roswell teaches Merle about photography. Merle becomes obsessed with the process, gathering up all sorts of chemicals and taking pictures of everything in sight. He begins wandering around the Eastern and Central United States, making money at it. At some point during all this, he meets Erlys. In East Fullmoon, Iowa, she leaves him for the magician Luca Zomboni, who is looking for a new assistant. He is left alone with their daughter, and he seems to be a better father than I had previously imagined.

After the exposition in Chicago, the two of them wander around the country for some years. There are some really gorgeous descriptive passages of their wanderings. Here's one:

Planted rows went turning past like giant spokes one by one as they ranged the roads. The skies were interrupted by dark gray storm clouds with a flow like molten stone, swept and liquid, and light that found its way through them was lost in the dark fields but gathered shining along the pale road, so that sometimes all you could see was the road, and the horizon it ran to. Sometimes she was overwhelmed by the green life passing in such high turbulence, too much to see, all clamoring to have its own way. Leaves sawtooth, spade-shaped, long and thin, blunt-fingered, downy and veined, oiled and dusty with the day--flowers in bells and clusters, purple and white or yellow as butter, star-shaped ferns in the wet and dark places, millions of green veilings before the bridal secrets in the moss and under the deadfalls, went on by the wheels creaking and struck by rocks in the ruts, sparks visible only in what shadow it might pass over, a busy development of small trailside shapes tumbling in what had to be deliberately arranged precision, herbs the wild-crafters knew the names and market prices of and which the silent women up in the foothills, counterparts whom they most often never got even to meet, knew the magic uses for. They lived for different futures, but they were each other's unrecognized halves, and what fascination between them did come to pass was lit up, beyond question, with grace. (70)

Merle takes various freelance work throughout the Midwest. While trying to sell lightning rods, he comes across a piece of sentient ball lightning named Skip, who travels with them awhile until he has to leave to become part of the lightning collective. In Denver, he comes across a magazine spread about Luca Zombini and his wife, Erlys, who live in New York and have bunches of children. This brings Merle to a kind of acceptance of her loss.

He sets up a workshop in a building in a deserted farm in Colorado, and there he meets Webb Traverse. They get into a discussion about alchemy (for which photography is apparently a metaphor) that I don't fully understand. Webb speculates that if the philosopher's stone serves as a metaphor for divine transmigration, there might also be a negative version. Merle calls it the "Anti-Stone," while alleging that "it has another name, but we'd just get into trouble sayin it out loud" (78). He basically doesn't want to talk about it.

Webb tells him about an amalgamator job in a town called Little Hellkite, which Merle takes. No, I don't know what this entails either, except that it presumably involves some sort of alchemy...thing.

And so, "this was how Merle and Dally, after a long spell of drifting from job to job, happened to roll to a stop in San Miguel County for the next couple of years--as it would turn out, some of the worst years in the history of those unhappy mountains" (80). Portentous!



Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

Michelson-Morley experiment was July 1887

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

I think TRP gets confused on page 67 and gives Merle some of Lew's memories (maybe they were originally one character?)

4:57 PM  
Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

Kodak Brownie = 1900

4:58 PM  
Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

new gravure process = halftone 1897?

Coxey's Army = April 1894 political protest

(do we ever meet Bert Snidell???)

5:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home